The Saints, despite the close score, essentially dominated the Raiders in week 2 of the preseason. There were many of good things to take away from the past game. However, before the observations, be sure to take everything with a grain of salt for two reasons: 1) It was just preseason 2) It was just the Raiders, a pretty bad team.
1) Drew Brees and the offense
Not that I was really worried about Drew Brees and Sean Payton, but it was reassuring to see the offense look crisp. The offense wasn’t terribly impressive against the Chiefs looking disjointed and out of rhythm. In addition to Brees, the wide receivers looked more in sync with what Brees and Payton were trying to do. Also, it seems that the left tackle spot has been decided. Charles Brown has been more than solid and as long as he stays healthy, the job will be his.
2) The Wide Receiver Battle
This will be a story line in every article until the regular season when the third wide receiver spot is decided. Once again, no one really separated themselves from the pack, though it seems that it is going to be a two horse race between Kenny Stills and Nick Toon. Toon had a very impressive 56 yard reception, but nothing else. Stills, on the other hand, had a great bounce back game getting many looks from Brees throughout the game. He had no drops and finish with 64 yards and touchdown. Preston Parker, the undercover star from week 1, had a quiet game with only 2 receptions, but that that might be more of a product of Seneca Wallace than his own deficiencies. Parker did make some hay on special teams though with an impressive punt return.
3) The defense
Yes, the defense was downright dominant; but once again, it was the Raiders, who are not very good. Doesn’t mean we can’t compliment them though. Rob Ryan definitely opened up the playbook a lot more this week mixing in more blitzes and looks. I am still not sold on Will Smith as a full time outside linebacker, but this week he was put in positions to succeed rushing the passer, which I expect to see a lot more. There are plenty of players to talk about, but three in particular were especially impactful. Cam Jordan continued his great camp and preseason recording a sack, and keeping consistent pressure on the quarterback. Jordan is looking like a stud, and he will have 10 plus sacks this year. The other two were Ramon Humber and David Hawthorne, the two starting inside linebacker. Both were just all over the field, and really patrolling the middle of the field. Humber had a sack and Hawthorne had a huge 4th and 1 stop. Hawthorne will be looking to finish off camp and preseason strong to lock up a starting spot while Humber might be able to work himself into the rotation.
4) Under the Radar positives and negatives
Four under the radar guys caught the coaches’ attention. For two of them, it is not the attention they were looking for. Seneca Wallace got his first action and was not good. He turned the ball over twice and didn’t do too many things well. Combine his bad performance with Ryan Griffin’s good performance and Luke McCown efficient showing against the Chiefs, it is very possible Wallace will be shown the door soon. He wasn’t alone, however. Travaris Cadet didn’t do much to help himself. He fumbled twice and wasn’t able to get much going on the ground. The running back position is already crowded and Khiry Robinson had a great game to go with his nice performance against the Chiefs. Chances are the Saints won’t be able to keep Robinson and Cadet, so Cadet will have to rebound to keep his roster spot.
Finally, two second team defender really caught my eye. Rookie John Jenkins is starting to look like a budding star. The mammoth of a nose tackle is consistently occupying two to three guys, and being very disruptive. I see big things this season from big number 92. The second guy is Glenn Foster, the undrafted rookie from Illinois. He was the star of the second team recording 2 sacks and 4 tackles. He seemed to be everywhere and was consistently getting to the quarterback. On a defense looking for answers from anyone who can provide them, he can definitely make this roster and maybe crack the rotation in the middle of the season.
The Saints were great. Even though it was just the Raiders, it is still a step in the right direction. Next week, Saints fans won’t have to exercise perspective as the Saints will travel to Houston to take on the Super Bowl contending Houston Texans.